There are all kind of great and interesting postgame press conferences after NCAA tournament games. There’s emotion, there’s intrigue, there’s detailed explanations of rebounding.
Sunday produced a cringe-worthy exchange from UC Irvine head coach Russ Turner.
The Anteaters coach explained why he repeatedly referred to Oregon freshman forward Louis King as “Queen.”
“I was saying double team Queen to try to see if I could irritate him. And I did,” Turner told the media. “And I kept talking to my team about what we wanted to do. We were calling him queen, because I knew it might irritate him, because of how important he is to their team, the queen in chess. It was a play on his name of King.
“And it bothered him, started thinking about me, started thinking about (UC Irvine junior) Max (Hazzard). But he came back and finished the game really strong. And he’d had a thing or two to say to me during the game, and I wanted to let him know that what I’d done was out of respect.”
There’s a lot to unpack here beyond the simple fact that he seems proud of something that just isn’t funny unless you have the sense of humor of a seven-year old.
Seriously, Queen? That’s the best you got?
Moving on, the excuse of King being Oregon’s chess piece or whatever is an extremely flimsy one. Even if you take Russell at his word, you have to be incredibly obtuse to refer to a man whose last name is King as “queen” is going to be interpreted as sexist or homophobic. Even if you didn’t mean it that way – which, I mean, c’mon – that will literally be nearly everyone’s understanding of it. A coach trying to emasculate a player. In this day and age, that’s just incredibly dumb to do.
Which brings us to the next point:
Why is Turner talking trash to a player to begin with? This isn’t a coach yelling out defensive assignments during a free throw or refusing to move from wherever he’s standing on the sideline when an opponent might feel a little squeezed by his presence there. Turner admitted to out-and-out trash talking of a player. That would be the man getting paid getting paid serious money to coach serious money to coach a game talking smack to a kid a year removed from high school who, as you’ll surely remember, is getting zero dollars to be there, even if he’s part of the reason the NCAA tournament hauls in billions of dollars and UC Irvine can afford to pay its coach reportedly in the mid-six figures.
But there’s even more to this.
Turner is a name that quite a few people have mentioned for jobs on the west coast. He’s in the mix for Cal. He’s in the mix for Washington State. He has a shot to take that mid-six figure salary and make it one with two commas and a crooked number in front in the coming weeks.
He also is a guy that already has the reputation in college basketball circles of being a jerk.
We’ve seen other coaches in a similar position – Eric Musselman, Danny Hurley, etc. — put out a different public image when they knew they were in line for a big pay bump.
Turner decides to brag on the podium after a tournament loss that he called Louis King “Queen.”
I’m sure it’s possible to do something dumber than this, but beyond jumping rope with a downed high voltage cable, I can’t think of anything.